The Lie About Human Nature That’s Making Us Miserable

What if the key to our happiness lies in a truth about human nature we've been misled to believe?

In “The Lie About Human Nature That Is Making Us Miserable,” Dr. Gabor Maté challenges the prevailing cultural narrative about what it means to be human. This insightful video delves into the heart of societal discontent, exploring the conflicting ideas about human nature that shape our lives and communities. Dr. Maté presents three distinct views: the belief that humans are inherently selfish and competitive, the notion of humans as blank slates shaped entirely by environment and experience, and finally, a perspective that suggests we are innately wired for love, connection, and altruism.

Dr. Maté argues that much of our collective unhappiness and societal dysfunction stems from a fundamental misalignment with this third view of human nature. He critiques a society built on principles of selfishness, competition, and materialism, positing that such a society contradicts our true nature, which craves connection, love, and a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. This societal mismatch, he suggests, is the root cause of widespread dissatisfaction, alienation, and psychological distress.

The video illuminates the idea that human suffering is exacerbated by societal structures and values that suppress our innate tendencies towards empathy, cooperation, and selflessness. By embracing a more accurate understanding of human nature – one that acknowledges our need for deep connections and meaningful contributions to the community – we can begin to alleviate the sense of disconnection and misery pervasive in modern culture.

“The Lie About Human Nature That Is Making Us Miserable” is a compelling call to reexamine our societal norms and values, urging us to align our structures and systems with the fundamental aspects of our true nature as human beings. This reevaluation, according to Dr. Maté, is essential for creating a more fulfilling, compassionate, and connected society.


What is it about this culture that makes so many of us unhappy, unkind to others, frustrated, alienated from ourselves?

There is one idea of human nature which is what this culture promotes. [It says] that human beings are by nature selfish, competitive, aggressive, out for personal gain.

Now, there is another view of human nature which is that there is no human nature, that it is just an empty slate which you can write anything you want. There is this idea of kids that you can program anything into them by behavioral programming so that basically we are empty, we are devoid of any internal nature so it is whatever we happen to learn.

There is a third view of human nature that we are actually wired in certain ways. We were wired for contact, for love, for connection, for generosity, for connection to the larger whole beyond the small ego. And then whatever conditions interfere with that is what creates the dysfunction.

From that point of view, if you have a society that promotes selfishness, that promotes competition, that promotes aggression, that promotes people feeling dissatisfied with what they have, that only says people are worth what they produce or what they own, or it is only matter that matters, it’s materialistic, “matter-ialistic.” So that our form whether you are pretty or handsome or toned or flabby defines who you are.

If there is a human nature that is quite contrary to that, then creating a society that goes against human nature is what creates the suffering. So I would say that what creates the suffering is we live in a completely unnatural society that actually tramples on what it means to be a human being, and that is the essence of suffering.


“Yes. Our society, our capitalist culture – tramples on us and makes us suffer. Austerity is murder…slow and painful.”

“Right on. In fact, what you describe is almost a rewording of the Christian view of human nature. The Christian view says that human nature was created by God to be good, to be social, to be loving, to be in harmony with nature and with ourselves, and with God (as seen in Genesis 1-2), and that when humans reject God’s plan for human nature, we get the opposite of these things: human evil, hatred and oppression, isolation, and exploitation of nature. Lots of preachers and theologians have been saying what you’ve said for at least 2000 years: that we are miserable because we are rebelling against the way we were made to be. Anyway, thanks for recognizing and articulating this basic idea in your own words. Peace.”

“And WHY is it like this? It is like this because it greatly benefits that tiny percentage of psychopaths at the very tippy top of the of the wealth distribution pyramid, while disenfranchising everyone else. As a society, we need to stop idolizing those people. Stop trying to be like them. Stop allowing them to define what’s important. Stop letting them off the hook when they do savage, atrocious things in the pursuit of ever greater wealth. They live life without consequences, but we could change that.”

“Exactly the way I feel. Thank you very much.”

The third premise is definitely the truth, combined with second one. We are inherently good but tragically easy to corrupt and manipulate with.”

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